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The key factors in building trust

Building a stronger sense of corporate purpose

PwC strongly believes that businesses can and should define a corporate purpose that goes beyond the purely financial: PwC’s purpose, for example, is to build trust in society and solve important problems. Purpose acts as a vital guidepost and benchmark for every important decision.

From environmental footprints to social impacts to investor demands and everything in between, businesses are expected to exhibit responsible behaviour in more and more areas and be accountable to an ever-wider array of stakeholders. If they fall short in any aspect, they lose trust, and the CEO survey for 2017 clearly shows how important an issue this has now become for CEOs in the UK and worldwide.

The drive to create improved levels of trust is very important for successful businesses in the future, and the responses to the survey show that UK CEOs do appreciate and accept this.


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"Trust, like reputation, is one of those things that can take weeks, months, even years to build up, and be destroyed in a bad move very quickly."

Gordon Sutherland,CEO, Tunstall Healthcare

Concerned about trust, feeling the pressure

Only 51% of UK CEOs actually measure trust with employees, compared with 71% globally. At the same time, all CEOs are feeling the need to deliver performance improvements faster than before. In the UK, 58% state they are feeling pressure in this regard, though the figure is 70% in the US. A modest but growing 38% of UK CEOs also state they feel under strong pressure to take a positive position on social and political issues, while 63% feel some pressure to take accountability, or believe they will be made accountable, for wider organisational failings.

Focus on internal stakeholders

As part of a strategy for building trust, 93% of UK CEOs are committed to a transparent people strategy, which is slightly more than the 91% recorded for the global figure. Fewer of them, however, (51% against 58% for global) make this a top priority. A similar pattern can be seen for diversity and inclusion, transparency in values and compensation schemes. Both in the UK, and globally, around 90% of all CEOs state that they are taking positive action to build trust and awareness among employees in all these areas.

Building trust with customers and partners

We see some similar patterns when it comes to promoting trust and openness to the outside world. UK companies are in line with their global peers in carrying out philanthropic activities to build trust with customers (73% UK, 80% global), while UK CEOs report above average figures for building supply chain transparency (71% are doing this compared with the global average of 79%).

UK CEOs are less likely to use environmental policy to build trust: 69% against a global average of 75%, while 84% of both UK and global businesses are using an inclusivity and diversity policy for building trust with customers. A similar pattern can be seen in the way that UK businesses build trust through a transparent business strategy (95% against a global 90%) and investment in cyber security (85% against a global 87%).

Building trust with key stakeholder groups, internally and externally, is a key concern for UK CEOs, who are taking practical steps to improve the current performance of their businesses in this respect. Yet it is clear that at least some CEOs may need to give higher priority to actually measuring trust as a first step towards gaining support with employees, customers and society at large and being able to report back on their progress.


Source: PwC's 21st CEO Survey

Kevin Ellis

Kevin Ellis

Chairman and Senior Partner

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Alan McGill

Alan McGill

Sustainability Assurance Leader

Tel: +44 (0)20 7212 4348


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Marco Amitrano

Marco Amitrano

Head of Clients and Markets, PwC United Kingdom

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